Answers from Norwich MPs on the Remember Gaza statement

Conservative MP for Norwich North Chloe Smith


Conservative MP for North West Norfolk Henry Bellingham with support of the Shadow Foreign Secretary




Remember Gaza – Media Release for Publication near to 27th December 2009

On the 27th December there will be world wide celebrations for peace and goodwill. That date is also the first anniversary of the launch by Israel of “Operation Cast Lead” when, at 11.30am on 27th December 2008, 88 Israeli aircraft flew over the Gaza Strip and simultaneously struck 100 targets in the space of just 220 seconds. This was followed 30 minutes later by 60 jets and helicopters, hitting additional targets and in total leaving 230 Palestinians dead and more than 700 wounded. This was how the Israel government conveyed seasonal greetings to the people of Gaza last year.

After 21 days and with over 1,300 Palestinians killed, including 410 children, and 5,000 wounded, the invasion officially ended and Gaza went off the radar for the mainstream media. So what is Gaza like today?

Despite the truce, the brutal blockade continues unabated as do periodic Israeli airstrikes.

No reconstruction has taken place as essential building supplies – cement, glass, wood, etc. – have not been allowed in. Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed as were hundreds of industrial facilities and businesses including the UNWRA main warehouse. which was shelled.

Thus, many Gaza residents are forced to live among the rubble, in the ruins of their homes or in pop-up tents never meant to house families for this long. With the onset of the cold, rainy Gazan winter, children will go to school suffering from cold, sleep deprivation and hunger.

Following the attack food dependency increased from 56% to around 75%.

Which supplies will be allowed through the blockade is not generally specified and is a part of a deliberately cruel guessing game.

UNRWA reports that items that have been inexplicably refused entry include light bulbs, candles, matches, books, musical instruments, crayons, clothing, shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, pasta and tea.

Schools report chronic shortages of everything from paper, textbooks and ink cartridges to school uniforms, school bags and computers.

In summary the UN trade and development agency says the “devastation visited upon the occupied Gaza Strip and its economy has plunged its 1.5 million inhabitants into depths of poverty and disintegration unknown for generations.”

Damages caused by Israel’s Operation Cast Lead are estimated at $4 billion, a sum the agency claims is three times larger than the size of its economy.

Yet no rebuilding can begin, and no industry can thrive until the blockade is lifted. Our New Year’s resolution is to continue campaigning for this and for justice for the Palestinian people. We invite the people of Norwich and its surrounding area to join us.

Endorsed by the following organisations

  • Andy Street, Norfolk Campaign Against the arms Trade (CAAT)
  • Jean Davis, Norwich CND
  • Frank Stone, Norwich Stop the War Coalition
  • Lesley Grahame, Norfolk Jewish Peace Group
  • Keith Rowley, Norwich Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • Toni Berry, Norwich Local Quaker Meeting
  • Marguerite Finn, Norwich Branch of Uni


  • Information for this statement has drawn on United Nations sources including

1) the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Report dated 7 August 2009 2) the UNRWA medium term strategy 2010- 2015 3) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

  • Siege

January 2006 was when Palestinians had the audacity to choose their own government (led by Hamas) in elections widely recognized as free and fair, Israel has imposed collective punishment on the people of Gaza in the form of a crushing blockade ever since.

  • Education Opportunities Restricted

Although many young men and women in Gaza would like to study abroad, particularly due to the very limited range of master’s and PhD programs available there, they are not allowed to leave Gaza.

Between July and September 2008 (the most recent figures available), no more than 70 students managed to leave Gaza via Israel – the vast majority of whom had won scarce, prestigious scholarships like the Fulbright.

More than 1,000 students from Gaza apply to universities around the world every year only to discover they can’t get out.

  • Employment

There are virtually no non-government jobs to be had, and as the Strip’s five universities churn out more graduates every year (due to the high value placed on education by the Palestinian culture), the palpable mood of desperation and futility spreads broader and deeper

  • UNWRA reported that after the military operation there was

1) Large scale devastation of human and physical capital, reversing development and deepening the aid dependency of Gaza’s whole population, including refugees. 2) food insecurity was estimated to have risen from 56 per cent to around 75 per cent. 3) Destruction of public and private sector infrastructure was widespread, with grave consequences for the economy, employment and the delivery of public services. 4) The social and psychological impact, especially on children, will be profound and long-lasting.

Film on Palestine and Israel

For a film on the Palestine Israel situation go to Spotlight for Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land.

Girl blog from Iraq; author shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize for non fiction:

10 myths about the invasion and occupation of Iraq

Read Ian Sinclair`s critical analysis of the myths created to justify the occupation.

For PDF click here: 10_myths_about_iraq.pdf

Archant, the invasion of Iraq and meaningful democracy

by Ian Sinclair

In December 2003, the EDP printed a positive story about Archant`s (the company that owns the paper) acquisition of twelve new titles. After reading this, I sent an email to the paper arguing that while this expansion was undoubtedly good news for Archant`s shareholders, what about the newspaper reading public? In the letter, I quoted James Curran, author of the core textbook for media students, who notes that “as a consequence of increasing concentration of ownership” the press fails “to reflect the growing diversity of public opinion”.

Archant is a large corporation owned and controlled by very wealthy people. Last year it announced pre-tax profits of £27.8m, with a turnover of £144m. US academic Noam Chomsky argues media corporations “have a special stake in the status quo … and have important common interests, with other major corporations, banks, and government”. Media analyst, Mark Hertsgaard, believes stories which raise “serious and pointed questions about the way our society is organized” will not be asked on a consistent basis within news corporations owned by corporations.

I received a swift reply from a senior member of the editorial team, telling me I had “nothing to worry about” as the EDP “is a good example of the principles of fairness, independence and balance”. I decided to put the EDP`s lofty principles to the test, using the 2003 Gulf War (the biggest news event of the year) as a case study. I took a trip to the Norfolk Heritage Centre at the Forum and studied the EDP`s coverage of the recent Iraq war, from 20 March 2003 to 10 April 2003 (the day the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad).

A survey of photographs (the most immediate and emotionally potent medium) published in the EDP reveals war to be an activity in which nobody ever gets killed. The EDP didn`t publish any pictures of dead Iraqi civilians (approximately 10,000) or soldiers. On the extremely rare occasion the paper did print a picture of an Iraqi casualty (a three-year old girl on 29 March) it was with a British medic attending to her. The EDP`s war coverage was dominated by pro-war columnists such as Chris Fisher and Martin Mears, who had 14 articles published, while the anti-war Ian Collins had just one article printed. Of course the EDP leader column during this period was fully behind the war effort, arguing that participating in anti-war protests “when young British servicemen… are dying” was “unseemly”. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to realise whose interest the EDP`s editorial policy supported. South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon wrote to me arguing, “I do not believe the truly hideous nature of war is actually apparent from Western television. If it were clear how terrible war is … there would be much less war.” Those who doubt my analysis should listen to Jack Straw. In April 2003, regarding the coverage of the war, the Foreign Secretary told an audience of regional press editors, chief executives and political editors and correspondents, “the regional press is performing with distinction”.

Throughout the twentieth century the EDP has continually supported UK state violence. The 1956 Suez Crisis, The Falklands War, the first Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan – all were supported by the EDP. In fact, I challenge anyone to find a British military campaign the EDP has not supported. Archant has a virtual monopoly on newspaper publication in the Eastern region. Therefore, it was impossible to read a local paper with an anti-war editorial stance. In Norfolk, all of Archant`s daily titles (the EDP, the Evening News and the East Anglian Daily Times) supported the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Let me be clear about what is at stake. Opinion polls consistently found the majority of the British public were against the war with Iraq. However, 100% of Archant`s daily newspapers in Norfolk supported the invasion. This is a terrible failure of representation and democracy, and turns the EDP`s claim of “fairness, independence and balance” into a sick joke. Contrary to the self-serving assertions made by its editorial team, in reality, the EDP is a highly conservative, pro-war, pro-business newspaper. Indeed, PR Week recently reported Archant had been running a public relations campaign “to encourage the corporate community to see Archant as a potential partner for media mergers and ventures”.

Those interested in meaningful democracy should work towards a non-profit press, with dispersed ownership and an end to the cosy relationship between newspapers and business.

The mission for a democratic Iraq?

In his book, Web of Deceit, Mark Curtis argues the public`s understanding of Britain`s real role in the world is being obscured by the mainstream media, which “promotes one key concept that underpins everything else – the idea of Britain`s basic benevolence.” Criticism of foreign policy does take place, but always within narrow limits which show exceptions to, or mistakes in, promoting the basic rule of benevolence. Thus, a regular EDP columnist has written that “the mission for a democratic Iraq” is “still not successfully concluded”.

The historical record clearly shows, rather than promoting democracy and human rights in the Arab world, Anglo-American foreign policy has been systematically opposed to these ideas. For example, in 1953 the US and UK instigated a coup against the popular, nationalist government of Iran, installing the brutal Shah. Amnesty International observed the Shah’s regime slaughtered 10,000 Iranians and held over 25,000 political prisoners. This week the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh exposed renewed US interest in Iranian affairs, reporting that the neo-conservatives are contemplating whether to extend the war on terror to Iran, with Special Forces already operating in the county. Or what about the continuing US/UK support for Saudi Arabia? In Saudi Arabia there is no freedom of association or expression, peaceful demonstrations are banned and women are pervasively discriminated against. There are no political parties, non-governmental organisations, trade unions or independent local media. In November 2003, Tony Blair said he counted Saudi Arabia as “a good friend” and hoped in the future our two countries relationship “will become even stronger”. More than anything else the US and UK don`t like independent, popular governments, who want to do things their own way. This attitude towards democracy was well demonstrated by the distinction made between “old” and “new” Europe in the build up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The former took the same position as the majority of their population (they opposed military action in March 2003) and were condemned by the US and UK. The latter ignored huge domestic opposition (e.g. Italy and Spain) and supported the invasion, and were praised by Washington and London.

In Iraq today the US and UK forces face a fundamental problem: The majority of Iraq`s want to kick them out (many opinion polls show this). Therefore, an elected government that reflected Iraqi popular opinion is unlikely to be sufficiently submissive to US and UK interests, and is unlikely to take an “acceptable” position on the wider Middle East security and the Israel-Palestine conflict.To this end, the US has consistently stalled on one-person-one-vote elections since the invasion. The popular Shi`ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistini called for elections by June 2004. This was blocked by the US, despite British officials claiming early elections in Iraq were viable and that an electoral roll drawn up from a mixture of ration, health and identity cards would be adequate. Salim Lone, the former UN Director of Communications in Iraq, notes the US “put democracy on hold until it can be safely managed”.

How this might occur was highlighted by a recent Time magazine story, which reported the existence of a “secret finding – proposing a covert CIA operation to aid candidates favoured by Washington”. Furthermore, in July the US-puppet Ayad Allawi made moves to control the media, establishing a committee to impose restrictions on print and broadcast media. The head of the committee told the Financial Times these restrictions would include “unwarranted criticism of the prime minister”. There are, of course, less subtle means of rigging the vote. For example, the 100,000 people estimated to have died in Iraq`since the invasion certainly won`t be voting on January 30. If the US and UK are serious about establishing an independent, democratic Iraq they would deescalate the violence, not escalate it, and hand over control of the electoral process to the UN. Indeed, the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, wrote to the US and UK governments before the recent assault on Falluja, arguing military action “could be very disruptive for Iraq`s political transition”. Unsurprisingly the day after the US assault began attacks on US forces rose from 80 to 130 a day. Can an election be legitimate when it is conducted under foreign military occupation?

The organisation Global Policy Forum believes Western oil companies could reap profits anywhere between $600 billion and $9 trillion over the next 50 years – as long as Iraq enters into production sharing agreements that offers the companies favourable terms. With such high stakes being played for, it seems highly unlikely the US and UK are going to voluntarily hand real control to the Iraqi population

Ian Sinclair

How much did Charles Clarke know?

Former Norwich Labour Party member says, “I am convinced that Charles Clarke knew that there was no immediate reason to attack Iraq in 2003…. Why did he not ask searching questions in his 20 or so cabinet meetings with Tony Blair?”

2002 Middle East Crisis Meeting Agreement

At a meeting in response to the Middle East crisis on Wednesday 10 April 2002 several organisations agreed to the statement:

“We affirm the right of all people to live in peace and dignity. We are increasingly alarmed at the escalating violence in the Middle East, which threatens the whole world.”